Tuesday, February 7, 2023

AFL’s ‘open door’ made it easy for Tom Wilson to return

In his years at AFL Victoria, Anton Grbac learned there was no point shutting the door on an athlete..

By Sunday Herald Team , in Sports , at April 9, 2019

In his years at AFL Victoria, Anton Grbac learned there was no point shutting the door on an athlete who chose a different sport.

Every year Grbac and other Vic Metro coaches would see young footballers torn between different sports.

Tom Wilson was one of those players as he excelled at both Australian rules and basketball.

Tom Wilson (right) is making the switch from basketball to Australian rules.

Tom Wilson (right) is making the switch from basketball to Australian rules.Credit:AAP

Despite being ranked in the best 30 players at the AFL under-16 national championships, Wilson felt his future was in basketball where he had an offer to join the BA Centre of Excellence and he soon after helped Australia to a silver medal the under-17 FIBA world championships.


What Grbac saw in Wilson was someone talented enough to have elite careers in either code, so he left him with a simple message.

Footy is only a phone call away.

On Tuesday Wilson, now 21, was granted a release from his contract with NBL club Sydney Kings to enter the AFL.

"We had a lot of experience with very talented boys who were at pains to make a decision between two loves," Grbac recalled on Tuesday.

"One thing I knew about Tom was that he did love both games. I said to him you have to go with what you feel like you love at the moment, but I know football will always be there for you if you want to come back to it.

"Just follow your path, trust that and if anything else pops up then give footy a go.

"In that particular case I think it rung a bell for him and made that decision a little easier.

"We always felt that it was better for football to leave the door open than shut the door on them and I think it's worked in this case."

Wilson left footy as a 186-centimetre half-forward and he returns at 194 centimetres and with sporting experiences from several different countries including an NBA pre-season game for the Kings against the LA Clippers last year.

AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan said Wilson was in the same under-16 group as Jacob Weitering, Josh Dunkley and Aaron Francis and was rated highly at the time.

Grbac recalled Wilson being a strong overhead mark and someone who possessed great skills and the ability to make space in tight situations.

"He was picked in the best 30 boys at the time," Sheehan said.

"He had poise with the ball, very composed and a good decision maker while being able to win the ball across half-forward.

"He has grown a fair bit since then, so he could potentially be a terrific size for AFL."

Wilson is expected to shortly take up a multi-year offer with an AFL club as a category B rookie and he told SEN on Tuesday morning he hoped to be playing football later this winter once he built up his conditioning.

"It's going to take a bit of time to build my body up to scratch and build my base," Wilson told SEN.

"Wherever I end up, I'm sure they will sort out a plan for me and how that best looks for me moving forward but I'll hopefully be playing some footy in the VFL or for a second side somewherRead More – Source

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